Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino & Umberto Contarello
Cinematographer: Luca Bigazzi
by Tory Maddox
The opening scene immerses you within a life of hedonistic pleasure. There is a massive roof party involving dancing, sex, drugs, and alcohol, shot like a bad music video, going into the early hours of the morn. Later the roof will serve an opposing purpose, as a place for debate and reminiscence, as characters try and figure out what provides their own lives with meaning between the weekend’s sex, drugs, and techno.
Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo) is a man who once wrote a critically acclaimed novel. Forty years later he has yet to release another. Instead he does stories on local artists and literary reviews, immersing himself within the Italian art culture and having a lot of fun at other people’s expenses. We’re not sure if he’s scared or without any ideas. It’s probably a mixture of both, revolving around an obsessive attachment to the bourgeois lifestyle, which Jep is unable to abandon out of fear of losing his identity as a revered Intellectual (something we Americans fail to at all provide our more esteemed writers). Some would say Jep, along with all of his friends, are unbearably pretentious, to which you have to agree. As with any overly cultured and upper class group such an attitude is inevitable. The people feel entitled to their high opinions and condescend toward those who don’t or refuse to understand highbrow culture.
However, Jep starts to find his intellectual relationships tedious. He's long past a mid-life crisis that’s starting to eat away at him. Eventually the feelings of living the rest of his days alone becomes terrifying and he enters into a deep reflection on what it all means. He revisits old friends, old lovers, finds a stripper (or prostitute) girlfriend, and goes about his days of partying and philandering and realizes that there’s more to life in his golden years.
The opening of the film teases you into thinking it’s something that it’s not, which is a great portrayal of an existential crisis; yes, that word which I’m sure any Italians or French would cringe that I use it. The Great Beauty's a story for anyone beginning to wonder what it was all for - whether for those who failed to achieve their wildest aspirations, or for those who might have actualized their dreams and are now wondering what it was all for. We follow Jep as he revisits and recounts all those individuals and events which affected his life. The title sums it all up. In the twilight of existence, we must remember that all of the things which brought to this present moment were a part of the Great Beauty.
BELOW: Jep and his friends sharing another late night of drinking, smoking, and intellectualizing
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